Journalism in the Public Interest

The Most Important #Muckreads on Rape in the Military

A new Pentagon report says 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2012. For context, we’ve rounded up some of the best journalism on sexual assault in the U.S. armed forces.

Men and women marines stand in formation at Camp Delaram in Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

May 17: This post has been updated to include the number of men in the military who reported suffering from military sexual trauma.

The Pentagon announced this week that a sergeant working in the military’s sexual assault prevention office had been charged with — you guessed it — sexual assault. This news came just a week after the officer in charge of the Air Force’s rape prevention program was arrested for sexual battery

An estimated 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2012, according to the latest government report. That’s up from 19,000 in 2010, despite recent claims that the military has been focusing more on prevention efforts.

Amid the growing controversy, Congress is hurrying to draft new legislation and Obama has called for stricter punishment for sexual offenders. All officers in the sexual assault prevention office will be re-screened and re-trained, the Pentagon announced. As lawmakers and military officials debate what to do next, we’ve rounded up some of the best journalism on sexual assault in the military.

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet them to us with the hashtag #muckreads.

The Invisible War, documentary, June 2012

The academy-award nominated documentary has helped bring the military’s rape crisis to national attention. Filmmakers interviewed victims and military personnel to reveal the overwhelming obstacles to prosecuting military rape, and how inadequate efforts have been so far to curbing sexual assault.

Trauma Sets Female Veterans Adrift Back Home, New York Times, February 2013

According to the Pentagon report, 48,100 women (and 43,700 men) reported military sexual trauma last year, which studies say makes them nine times more likely to suffer from PTSD. This two-part New York Times series documents the struggles facing women veterans who’ve suffered from sexual assault, including homelessness and unemployment.

The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer, Rolling Stone, February 2013

The story of one naval officer’s rape details the consequences victims face for coming forward — consequences that keep most victims from reporting sexual attacks. After telling her superiors she had been raped, Rebecca Blumer was accused of lying, sexually harassed, denied promotions and ultimately discharged.

Rape victims say military labels them 'crazy', CNN, April 2012

A CNN investigation found another way the military handles rape accusations: labeling victims as emotionally unstable. After reporting a sexual assault, multiple service members were diagnosed with a personality disorder and discharged. Their abuse allegations were ignored.

The Enemy Within, National Journal, September 2012

What is it about the military that makes sexual assault so pervasive? The National Journal digs into the policies behind the statistics, and the legal loopholes exploited by sexual predators.

Pentagon grapples with sex crimes by military recruiters, Washington Post, May 2013

Active service members aren’t the only ones vulnerable to sexual assault. A recent series of scandals across the country exposed military recruiters accused of sexually abusing young people looking to enlist.

Betrayal in the Ranks, The Denver Post, 2004

The Denver Post spoke with more than 60 victims about their battle for justice, and the psychological trauma that lasted long after their assault. Many felt the military blamed them for their rape, while shielding their attackers from punishment. 

Truth be told, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted at a college or University than the armed forces or in a military service academy. This is one of those “inconvenient truths” not mention because it would deprive bleedinghearts of the club they use to bash the “patriarchy” in the armed forces.

What the press ignores is that the military’s “problem” very closely parallels the wider sexual assault problem in the rest of society. The DOD just keeps much better records.

Fred Donaldson

May 16, 2013, 3 p.m.

More than half of the victims were men, according to the report, a fact not mentioned in your story.

The problem is simple….I am 62 years old and was brought up with RESPECT for others. There are too many people today who never heard of the word RESPECT and it is absent from their lives! We are saturated with the lack of RESPECT for others; in todays music, TV violence, video games, and even on your website. As I was reading this article an ad came up of the ‘10 Ugliest Celebreties’.... that is disgusting and extremely disrespectful to even have a link to that on your website!

The people in the Armed Forces are there to defend their country . The people who rape women should be hunted down as animals . I have utter contempt for such people .
From Jim , 12 year vet , HM Royal Air Force , 1969-1974 , 1976-1983 .

More likely to be assaulted at a university?  I think that’s baloney and if you are going to cite those lies, damned lies and statistics, you should back them up. 

I live in a city of about a million and one half people.  I’m guessing our military has a few million active personnel.  There are not 26,000 cases of sexual assault annually where I live. 

The Japanese have been arguing about this for decades as women on bases in Japan and Okinawa are continually raped.  The last time I was in Japan there was a huge issue with a recent case of rape and while I cannot recall, I think the girl was ultimately murdered.

This certainly is a case of patriarchal social values embraced by modern capitalist society.  Everything in our society is exploitative, predatory and violent.  That includes the military-industrial complex, corporations, political parties, etc.  Even the counter cultures of youth gangs are a reflection of state violence.  Our society is dying because of this violence.  And capitalism is dying along with it.  Even the Pope came out this week and called capitalism a global tyranny. 

We are reaping the violence that the corporate state sews.

I would strongly suggest adding The Legacy of Tailhook to this list. It gave historical perspective to the crisis.

A former professor, one aware of the desperate effort of many of the lesser colleges and universities to acquire students, as state funding drops, that the last thing such places want known is the statistics on the rape of students. As required by law, they disclose on campus rapes as opposed to the rapes of students wherever the may live, as in off campus housing—student areas apart from campus from which students have to walk to classes. Often the campuses that are relatively safe from urban predators are those, such as USC and the U of Penn, that build walls around their campuses and have their own police forces.

Was I the only person in the BLEEPin country that was paying attention when Brian Lewis went before the Senate and told of being assaulted? WHy is rape in the military being presented as a crime against women? We KNOW that’s not the whole of the story./

It’s sad to see Propublica do its part to leave male victims hurting in isolation. We really DO know better

Are we counting the sexual assaults against contractors, who often find their work contracts (assuming they survive and don’t bludgeon, stab, and drown themselves to death—I mean, it’s an obvious suicide, the way these reports get written…) forbid prosecution?

And Mike, are you challenging the importance of assaulting a soldier on the basis that other people are also assaulted?  The story isn’t about assault.  It’s about pervasive coverup.  It’s about a culture that outright condones sexual assault, and does so on our payroll.

Even if such attacks are more likely at college (something I’d have to see real numbers to believe, since that seems like something that would be news on at least the fringe sites), college kids can take their attackers to court.  Soldiers stand before officers who themselves may be guilty of sexual assault, and then find themselves discharged for violating infidelity clauses.

These numbers don’t count civilians raped by the military in the US and worldwide.
The UCMJ says that any contact that is of a sexual nature is a crime yet they are allowing rape in epic numbers and promoting rapist!

The US military has no honor! The US military needs investigated and held accountable.  Either they fall under the same laws as we do or they are criminals!
And people need to realize how many actual criminals they are enlisting!

As to statistics on the number of rapes on college campuses (always a question of how many students are raped at college facilities as opposed the rape of students living off campus), I thought I had put up a link here but maybe it was taken down. Some sites do not allow for web links to be placed in comments.

So, see the web site campus rape .org, which appropriately provides a link to a National Institute of Justice/Bureau of Justice Statics report. The campus rape web site predicts that 1 in 4 women will be raped during their college careers. Any body know how to use google well can turn up additional sources of stats. As often is the case, Wikipedia offers an excellent commentary; just look up “campus rape.”

Looks as if men in the US aren’t any better in showing respect to women than the men in India about whom we have been reading.

Wentworth Cheswell

May 20, 2013, 1:48 p.m.

If you are going to have a war raging for going on a decade and a half, then you’ll have things like this happen…just like they happen on all college campuses in the U.S…..did you do a story on that?  Maybe because professors are involved?  and remember, the rape victims can always go to the “abortion” clinic if they are left with a baby they don’t want….even when birthing the baby…..and how easy it is to “succumb” to sex and then label it rape so that your husband doesn’t think you a hoe.  I hope your most prominent journalist/reporter (Beavis and Butthead) on rape is Sandra Fluke….she is so knowledgeable about sexual things…she can’t even find herself to a “planned parenthood” facility in her “college” area to get herself some of that “high end” birth control pills for $3,000 per year…she’s a plethora of knowledge on sexual things of any nature.

Wentworth Cheswell

May 20, 2013, 1:50 p.m.

Be very careful, because they are trying to label this “PTSD” which means you will not be able to own a gun after you have been diagnosed as PTSD for any reason.  Think twice about coming out or you’ll live to regret it.

Colleen Bushnell

May 20, 2013, 3:10 p.m.

A woman is TWICE as likely to get raped in the U.S. military than a College Campus . . . Truth be told . . .

Colleen Bushnell

May 20, 2013, 3:20 p.m.

The DOD does NOT keep better numbers!!!!! 80 percent of victims are afraid to report!!! Of the 26,000 that were indicated in an anonymous DOD survey in 2012, just over three thousand were reported, of those just over 250 went to trial! Guess how many served jail time? Almost NONE. The President and ANOTHER Secretary of Defense has stated this is a crisis that is impacting National Security. Please read these articles. 53 percent of victims are Men! Patriarchy, matriarchy has nothing to do w causing violent crimes. Not prosecuting perpetuates predators. Get rid of the criminals and get in w the mission . . . Period. STOP Act 2013.

Nancy Marquez

May 21, 2013, 2:14 p.m.

At this point in time, we really can never tell when and how danger will come to us. Crime rates are rapidly growing and worse, even those people you can trust could also be one of them. Fortunately, I found this service that caters a Panic Button installed on the phone which you may press when you are in danger or in emergency. It uses GPS technology to keep track of your location so if help is needed, it will surely come to you. By pressing the Panic Button, you can also notify your safety network that you need help. It doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be a victim but it will enable you to be rescued.

The 1st comment by mike is naive to say the least.  In service, I am expected to possibly fight and die beside my comrades.  Often I was living with them either abord ship or in barracks.  In the civillian woorld I go home every nightand then come to work the next day for another 8 hr shift. Trust in the military must be there or else the job cannot be done. Any crime inside the military is, in my opinion, worse in that very often it involves someone taking advantage of the trust that you are forced to place in them.  Cassette tapes stolen from my bunk while in service was much more disturbing to me because I knew that the person whho had stolen them from me definately knew me, my rountine etc.  That might or might not be true in the civillian world, it could just be a random crime but I knew for sure by virtue of the close quarters we lived in that the person who had stolen those tapes from me knew me, knew how much I enjoyed those tapes and still he stole the whole collection.  Note to military senior commanders: if you are serious about solving this problem in the military the first thing is to make the victims feel as if they are believed, that you want to help them in any way you can and that you share their desire to see the perp prosecuted for the crime.  Next, you do a full investigation, no exceptions, no matter how “important” the accussed is to the military.  That investigation should be every bit as thourough as a civillian investigation, if not more so. You have to let victims know that you want the truth no matter where or who that truth leads to Then you are exceptionally supportive of the victim, not the accused,and you as a commander try in every way to let that victim and the whole unit know that the support is there foor any other potential victims.  Sure, there will b be false accusations, but those are surprisingly few and are usually found out pretty quickly and when it is proven beyond doubt to be a false accusation you prosecute that crime as well.  What I’m trying to say is that if you show your subordinates that you as a commander care about them, the crime that was committed against them, that you want to see the criminal prosecuted every bit as much as the victim does and that you are committed to finding the truth you, ma’am or sir, will have a unit that will follow you wherever you lead them without hesitation. Until you do that, it’s all just talk and you know what they say about “talk’ in the military!

Hey Jim, the comment on 5/17 @6:23 am- where can I find a transcript of that hearing?  I’m blind and so I’m hoping someone can help me by providing me with a fairly simple and easy to find link.  Thanks, Kevan Oh, Pro-Publica great writing I’ve had some recent very negative experiences with my Rx drug plan and hospitals in gen I’d like to tell this story can you place me in contact with someone. It is very disturbing to see patients abused in such a manner and considering my PDP was with a so called advocate for health care issues even more so.  Thanks, again.

I was raped while serving in the US Air Force in Saudi Arabia.  This all occurred while on break after being sent to Al Dar.  There was drinking.  The military in their great wisdom housed myself & another female in a villa with 12 males.  All he had to do was walk into my room while I was sleeping & the other female was in the living room.  I reported, was immediately shipped stateside, my entire workplace knew what happened before I got back.  He was court martialed, but only received six months & a dishonorable.  Ruined my career & I got out as soon as I was able.

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